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TEBELAK, JOHN MICHAEL

TEBELAK, JOHN MICHAEL

TEBELAK, JOHN MICHAEL (17 Sept. 1949-2 Apr. 1985), composer of the musical Godspell, was born in Berea to John and Genevieve Tebelak. At age 9 he was active in the Berea Summer Theater. A choirboy at TRINITY CATHEDRAL, he was fascinated with the pageantry and drama of religion. At 21, he directed productions of Macbeth and Cabaret. He later attended Carnegie-Mellon University in Pittsburgh, where he wrote Godspell, a musical based upon the Gospel according to St. Matthew. With music by Stephen Schwartz, Godspell was first produced in 1971 by the Cafe La Mama in New York City. The show moved to Off-Broadway and won the Natl. Theater Conference Award for best production and several honors from Variety's 2d annual poll of New York drama critics. Leonard Bernstein later consulted with Tebelak for a presentation of the musical mass Godspell, and it opened at the John F. Kennedy Ctr. for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C. Tebelak conducted its opening at Cleveland's Great Lakes Shakespeare Festival, then the show moved to Broadway and thereafter became the basis of a movie. Even though Tebelak stated he loathed organized religion because it "missed the point," he became a postulant in the Episcopal church in 1978. He was also dramatist in residence at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York City and staged several plays, including his own about the American hostages in Iran in 1979-81. In 1981, Tebelak dropped out of seminary and began full-time theater work again. He never married.